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Belichick unfazed by joint practices with a familiar foe

Bill Belichick

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick appeals to an official in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)


The Patriots played the Texans twice last year, in Week Three and in the postseason. They’ll square off again in Week Three this year.

But that gives coach Bill Belichick no concerns about practicing against the Texans during training camp.

“I mean, honestly, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Belichick told reporters on Monday. “I mean, I think this is another event that’s hyped up by a lot more of the people who are watching it than the people who are involved with it. So, I mean, look, we played this team three times in the last two years. Half their coaching staff coached here. It’s not a big secret how we run a certain play or how we coach a certain defense, and I’m sure they’re coaching it the same way when we played against them. That’s not really what this practice is about.

“It’s not what the middle of August is about. It’s about building your team’s conditioning, building your team’s fundamentals, building your team’s awareness, having them learn to play together with each other against good competition. That’s what we’re going to do this week.”

The Patriots also will be playing the Texans in a preseason game this week. Belichick remains unfazed.

“We’re not going to show them our triple reverse and they’re not going to show their triple safety blitz and a bunch of other garbage,” he said. “That’s not what this is about. It wouldn’t be about that with any team, but it’s certainly not about that with these guys. They’re a tough, sound, fundamental football team. We’ve seen that and we know that from their coaching staff and the way they prepare and the way they coach and the way we’ve competed against them. This is about us trying to get better, them trying to get better, and when we play each other in the regular season, then we’ll game plan and we’ll strategize and we’ll do everything we can do to try to win the game. They’ll do the same thing. That’s not really what this week is about. Honest to God, Bill [O’Brien] and Mike [Vrabel] probably know our calls as well as we know them, and I’m sure we know a lot of the ones that they use because they’re the same ones that we use, but I don’t think that really is – I mean, that’s so overrated in my opinion, not in everybody else’s, but in mine. I’m just trying to get our team better this week. That’s what we’re going to go down there and do. The rest of it, I say, is like way less than one percent in my mind.”

He’s right. No one is game planning at this stage of the season. They’re simply working on those fundamentals that provide the foundation for what will happen, week by week, once the regular season starts.

Practicing against another team is simply a tool for giving the players someone other than teammates to work again. When it’s time to come up with offensive and defensive strategies for a game that counts, everything will be different.

That said, it would be foolish to assume that Belichick won’t study film from these joint practices and from the preseason game looking for potential weaknesses that can be exploited when preparing for the regular-season game that counts. O’Brien may do the same. And if they didn’t both see that as an acceptable risk, they wouldn’t be practicing against each other, and they definitely wouldn’t have scheduled a game for the preseason.